Sunday, October 25, 2009


"Etiquette is not some rigid code of manners; it is simply how persons' lives touch one another."
Emily Post, circa 1922

I am a stickler when it comes to my kids expressing their appreciation when someone does something nice for them. Almost as soon as the gift is unwrapped, we pull out their stationery and I help them find the appropriate words to say thank you. My son is still a wee one, so I am pretty sure he doesn't completely understand what mommy is doing with pen and paper in hand (he has his moments) but my daughter has surprised me on more than one occasion by beating me to the punch.

She recently received a gift from some friends of my parents. Nothing fancy, some colourful beaded bracelets and a necklace, the kind of gift that brings little girls to a near squeal. We received them over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend and being a little busy and pre-occupied with all that turkey business, it slipped my mind to jot down a thank you to this nice couple (since my mind seems to 'slip' a lot these days, I usually make a habit of writing out a thank you note right away so I don't completely forget). On Thanksgiving morning, my daughter woke up at 7:00 am and raced into my room, almost on the verge of tears, trying to drag me out of bed because it was 'real important'. In my half groggy state, I jumped out of bed, thinking some horrible accident had occurred and tried to prepare myself for the calamity that waited for me downstairs.

Lily Lemontree

When I asked her (okay, maybe I was yelling but it all seems a blur) what was wrong, she pointed to the kitchen table and just said 'look mommy'. On my kitchen table, she had laid out her bracelets, a pen, and her stationery. Stunned (well, it was 7:00 am), I asked her what this all was and she told me that she 'never said thank you to Mrs. S for her bracelets and that she remembered it in her dream, and had to get out of bed to do it quickly because that wasn't nice to forget.' Obviously, I will have to start saving some money for therapy if this child is thinking about these kind of things in her dreams but I was so proud of her at that moment for wanting to be 'nice' and secretly a little proud of myself as well for teaching her the importance of being nice and how to show it to others.

As much as I try, I sometimes don't know if I am getting through to them. On my more trying days, I question if they absorb any of this stuff I try to teach them. These epiphanies I experience with my children, while I would prefer them during the late afternoon as opposed to first thing in the morning, prove to me that a child is never too young to learn good manners.

Lily Lemontree

Start by getting some nice paper for your little ones. Since the priority here is teaching them the importance of the 'thank you', you really could use any plain old lined paper but why would you?? Get them excited by involving them in choosing paper that reflects their personality or a theme they really like.

Personalized note cards are always a great choice (it usually peaks their interest in something if they see their name on it). And be diligent with your task at hand! While they are never too young to learn about proper behaviour, let's not forget that they are the children and we are the adults. We are their examples and teachers. If we can't remember to say 'thank you' to others (verbally and in other ways), how do we expect our children to remember??
Get into the habit of setting the example of what good manners are and you would be surprised how much your children will absorb from you without even saying a word!

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